A tribute to the newest Cub: Joe Mather

The local Chicago high school may not be named after the Cubs' Joe Mather, but the "Mather" t-shirts offer a chance to honor the long-time minor-leaguer. (photo by Rob Harris)

As the final 25-man rosters are being set, there are some surprises, as there always are. The biggest surprise for the Cubs, perhaps, has been the inclusion of long-time minor-leaguer Joe Mather on the opening-day roster.

At the start of 2012, no one could have seen this coming, except for maybe Joe Mather. He spent a decade in the Cardinals organization and was released after the 2010 season. He split 2011 between the Braves and Rockies organizations, but the Cubs signed him and gave him a spring training update. Mather did the rest, and now he’s on the team for the trip back to Chicago to open the season.

There’s probably no demand at this time for Mather Cubs jerseys. I’m not even sure what number he wears. But I wanted to honor his accomplishment anyway, and a fortunate coincidence has allowed me to do that.

On the North side of Chicago, about five miles northwest of Wrigley Field, there is a high school named Mather. Not for Joe Mather, but for Stephen Tyng Mather, who helped establish the national parks in this country. But everyone calls it Mather High School, and since the school’s colors are blue and white, it opens the possibility of an organic Joe Mather tribute. So I set out this morning to make it happen.

I parked my car in Mather’s parking lot, on the last day before spring break started. I went to the school’s main entrance, told them I was looking to get a Mather t-shirt or hat or something, and eventually found my way into a room stocked high with Mather shirts, shorts and sweatshirts.

For the very reasonable fee of ten dollars (a fraction of what an official jersey would cost), I was able to walk out with a blue shirt with the word “Mather” across the front in white letters. It was exactly what I was looking for. But then it got even better.

On my way out of the building, I was presented with a Mather baseball cap, and a Mather knit cap, by the school’s Dean of Students. It turns out he’s a big Cubs fan and attends the Cubs convention with his sons each year. We talked about the team, and I told him of the Joe Mather piece I had written for my own blog. He seemed interested, and told me he would check it out.

It’s always nice to meet another Cubs fan, and to promote my blog at the same time. It was a win-win situation. I plan to repay the kindness with a large box of Cubs baseball cards for him and his sons, once school resumes again.

So, now I’m wearing my new Mather shirt, well aware of the fact that he’s not a high-priced star like Alfonso Soriano or Ryan Dempster. But by the same token, he’s earned his spot on the Cubs roster and hasn’t yet disappointed Cubs fans like me. So, why not pay tribute to him, if only in an esoteric way?

Here’s hoping that Joe Mather, and the rest of his team, surprises more than a few people in the months ahead.

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